Animal Crack Box has had an interesting history, like much that has to do with Animal Collective. The three-disc vinyl-only collection had been discussed for years following the release of Hollinndagain, their first live album, but was always put off, as studio albums always seemed more appealing to the band. At first, there was only one actual copy of the album, made available on eBay to support Doctors Without Borders (a charity best known for helping third-world countries), but the vinyl collection was soon released commercially, with 1000 more copies put up for sale via Fusetronsound. Even with the lack of actual copies produced, thanks to the internet, the album is still widely available.
To the many fans Animal Collective picked up with Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Crack Box might be a very confusing step “forward,” because the live album’s sound more closely resembles their earlier work, rather then then the very focused pop-sprinkled sounds of Merriweather. However, the timing of this album really couldn’t be better. By releasing and re-instating this more-experimental side of their ever-changing sound, Animal Collective have let their fans know that they are still doing what ever they want, and that though Merriweather Post Pavilion may have skyrocketed them more into the limelight, that they will never become just the one thing.
For Animal Collective, the music has always been about the building energies between the band mates and the feeling of the musical piece as a whole. Crack Box showcases Animal Collective at their trippy best, with the only continuing beat throughout the experience being the syncing of Panda Bear’s soulful yelping to your very own climbing and dipping heartbeats. The varying members of Animal Collective have always listened to the voices that come from deep inside them and transcribed those fleeting feelings into songs about pure emotions, (Feels, if you will) leaving the listener either pulled deeper and deeper into the odd soundscape being made for them, or into a colorful state of confusion. True, they are not for everyone’s tastes, but I do feel that if given a fair chance, anyone could potentially get into at least a couple of their infectious songs.
Some songs do seem to drawl on and on, such as the opener, “Jimmy Raven”, but I suggest never giving in to the temptation to skip a song. Like I said, Animal Collective has always been about building energies and combating emotions, which means the songs are all about the whole experience. This is especially true when listening to Animal Collective as a live album, any themes that they might seem to randomly touch on early on are usually built upon later in some way. Animal Collective try to break the modern musical addiction that is short bursts of song-i-tude, to remind us of the roots of what music actually is. Music is about the unique experience of hearing someone’s individual thoughts and feelings, from their perspective, to expand your own. Some may think that by getting rid of obvious hooks and choruses that Animal Collective is barely even making music, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In all honesty, they might be one of the only bands to actually make music anymore. They are able to weave a song from apparently thin air, and their seemingly random vocal cries are placed so particularly that they seem to come bubbling from the mouths of the members, but from the brains of some other-worldly force. I actually find many parallels between the song structures of Animal Collective and the works of early classical composers whose epic suites were a living-breathing piece as much as Animal Collectives are. They evolved, rose and fall mimicking the rising and falling of human emotions, and they took time to build up those feelings.
Animal Crack Box is one of those true experiences. It can get one thinking of many things, reminding us of stories from days of old or of the challenges we will have to face in the future. It’s full of hidden sounds, subliminal messages, random samples, bizarre yelps and strange chord progressions. It’s an overwhelming experience, but in a beautiful way. It shows us what music can be at it’s most basic state of being, and at the same time, it’s most complex. It’s not what one would expect after the releases of Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion, but it is a fantastic showcasing for fans, both new and old, what lies at the true core of the band that’s been everywhere.
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